Miz Shoes

Daddy’s Little Girl

Fourteen years ago, almost to the minute, my father passed into the great beyond. I'm lighting a candle, of course. I may or may not pay my respects at the cemetery. I mean, I should, I want to, but at the same time, my studio is my father's former work shop. I am closer to him there than anywhere else on earth, I think, and what better way to honor his memory today than to work in my studio, under the light that hung in the family store, on a concrete floor stained with Daddy's years of habitation, with photos of him (and my mummy) looking on?

Yeah. Nothing.

Miz Shoes

I’m the One They Call the Seventh Son

If, as they say in most every mystic tradition, being the seventh son of a seventh son is a big deal, then what is there to say about me? I am the only daughter of an only daughter of an only daughter. Our line ends here. Is there nothing mystically inherent in that?

One of my cousins asked me...well, actually, she asked me many questions and among them were these: Why are we still in communication with each other when there is enough of an age difference that we don't know each other very well? She was grown and out of the house by the time I was aware of her, but I adored her mother, who was my great-aunt. My mother adored both of them. So why wouldn't I want to be in touch with her? She is a link in a very tiny chain. Which brought the next question: Why am I so obsessed with finding Lillian Rube and the rest of my long-lost family?

That I cannot answer. I can only say that I am called to her. Or she calls to me. I have her face. I took care of her child, my mother, at the end of her life when she was little more than the infant Lillian left behind ninety-odd years before. I have a piece of her handwork, an embroidered sampler which reads "The Last Rose of Summer." It was unfinished at the time of her death and is unfinished still, almost 100 years later. I can't finish it. I have considered framing it, but who would care about it after I am gone?

My mother was the only daughter of her mother, indeed, the only child. Her mother was the only child (I think) of her father, but one of many sisters born to the same mother. So there I am: the only daughter of the only daughter of the only daughter. Who were these women? Are they the reason I work with my hands? Are they why I cook? Do I have their hands, their hips, their impossibly curly hair? Who were their mothers? Why is it so hard to trace the matrilineal line in genealogy?
Miz Shoes

After My Picture Fades

Maybe because I was such a tiny child, I was always drawn to miniatures. I collected them from the time I first plucked a blown glass vial from a collection of dusty bottles in an antique store in Newport. The store owner gave it to me with a laugh, when he asked if I'd found something I couldn't live without and I showed him this inch-long thing and pointed to the pontil mark on the base and said, "it's really blown glass". 

It was no different on the beach, where I collected operculums. They were tiny, hard to spot and unlike other shells, probably because they aren't really shells. In our teens, my friend John and I would spend summer days at the beach competing with each other to find the most. He kept his in a little tin box. I kept mine in a medicine bottle. In our 20s, we moved to different parts of the country, and I gave him my entire collection of operculums. In our 30s, I went to visit him in Texas, and took this photo of him reviewing our collection.


It is the last photo of have of John. Within two years, he and his lover Robert were both dead of AIDS, but not before John's sisters disowned him for being gay and being sick. He died alone in a hospice, his last wishes that I have the little tin box full of shells.

His sisters being assholes, they kept the box and threw away the shells and told me never to call them again.

Every time I go to the beach, I look for operculums, and every time, I find at least one. I know that John is with me there on the shore. This summer on the Gulf, I found more than a dozen during my week stay. I thought it meant it was time to share John's story.

Miz Shoes

I’m Not That Hard to Find

Tell her she can look me up, if she has the time. I find myself sitting in front of my laptop, typing names into search engines. Women who were my friends when we were in our teens and twenties, and even our thirties. That was half my life ago, yet I find that I am still looking back. What broke those bonds? The first quit speaking to me when I set her up with the man she married. Apparently there was only enough room in her life for one friend. I think of her now because my Number Two Surrogate Daughter comes home from her 2-year walk about in SE Asia today, with a man in tow and plans to move to Denver to become doctors. By coincidence, that is where the lost friend went and she is a doctor. With sadly low ratings, I am afraid, but her portrait on the company website looks great, and that’s a great job title. Mazel Tov, but although this lost friend was found, I find she is not, after all, missed. Except for the part where, were we still friends, I could request her patronage for the NTSD.

The second friend was a soul sister from the moment we met in the UM art department. She was leading an immense Great Dane, and I was crocheting a rainbow. I say she was leading, but to do her justice, she was swanning along, tall, lean and elegant with an equally self-possessed and physically striking animal. The two of them looked like a deco drawing of glamour come to life. Nice puppy, I said. Nice rainbow, she said. We were inseparable for the next 10 years. She was my muse, my best friend, my sister, my partner in high jinks. I was her nice girl friend, her wing man, her voice of reason and her best friend. Ultimately, my voice couldn’t keep out the other voices, and I lost her to bi-polar disease. I miss her the most. Today I found an email for her sister. I wrote and asked if maybe we could connect. I have no idea if she’ll respond, much less if it would be in the positive.

Annus mirabilis I have declared this to be, and so far it has been. I am packing this year with my favorite things and people. For it to truly be a miracle, there are more women I need to see face to face. There are several in Texas. There is one in New York. I have a plane ticket that needs to be rebooked by August 4. Where shall I go?

Miz Shoes

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

I’ve written before about my Christmas memories; that I have many and conflicting emotions about them. As merchants, my family went all out for Christmas decorations in the store, but at home there was no Christmas, we celebrated Chanukah. There was no overlap. We had a Jewish, if not kosher, home and a commercial establishment that catered to a Christian community, and for them and for the bottom line, the store celebrated Christmas. The whole family worked in the store during the season. We closed as early as we could shoo the last customer out of the store on Christmas Eve, and had a party in the shoe department (that’s where the chairs are, people) for the store family (all the employees, duh). Then the nuclear family walked over to Grandpa’s house and had a drink and then we all went and ate Chinese food, as one does.

But my friends, those Christians for whom we held Christmas in the store, they all wanted me to enjoy and have Christmas with them. They felt I was missing something, so they gave it to me: tree trimming parties, cookies, ribbon candy, wrapping and unwrapping. And best of all, Christmas food. Today I am remembering my dear, dear, dear friend Kay Thompson and all the Christmas mornings I spent at her home. I remember the year she received her diamond studs from her father, I remember her Porsche 914 (the squashed, flat frog), her Doberman puppy, the equestrian ribbons in her bedroom. I remember her annoying little brothers, Charles and David (who are probably highly respectable businessmen in their 50s with grandchildren now, sorry.) And anyway, that sentence maybe should read that I remember annoying her two little brothers.

But most of all, I remember her mother’s left over ham, fried up and served with red-eye gravy. Kay’s mother could take my one-syllable name and stretch it out to three. Kay and I would just roll our eyes. I wish I could tell Kay today how much I love these memories, and how sad I am that she’s gone, even though we rarely spoke these past 15 years. Just knowing that she was out there in the world made me happy.

Happy Christmas to all. And may you create new memories this year.

Miz Shoes

Where Does the Time Go?

A year ago today, I sat with my mother, holding her hand, playing every version of “By the River of Babylon” I could find, reciting prayers and generally midwifing her soul into the great beyond.

I played this, too.

Miz Shoes

All These Faces I Remember

In this season of melancholy introspection, as Miz Shoes ponders how she got to this place, there is another friend of my youth who seems to have gone missing. Oh, she's here in the periphery of my on-line life, but it would be more accurate to say that I am on the outer-most periphery of hers. She was the first friend I made after college, and from the instant I laid eyes on her, I knew her to be the coolest person in the world.

The fact that she and I became so tight (after an inauspicious start, the retelling of which she and I both perfected, with hillariously divergent perspectives) was both a mystery and a treasure to me. After all, I had gone from lowest high school nerd to Queen of Art School cool in just the past four years, and art school cool doesn't necessarily translate into the real world. Yet she and I were friends, and that friendship lasted over years and miles, forever amazing and delighting me.

Sometime in the past year or so, though, something happened, and I don't know what it is. She doesn't answer my calls. She doesn't respond to my emails. After 35 years, she's dropped me, and I have no clue why. Don't get me wrong, I have embarrassed her, insulted her friends, overstayed my welcome; given her any number of reasons to dump me over the years, but she never has. It's the timing that has me so puzzled and hurt. If I knew what it was, I would apologize. I would swear never to do it again. I would make amends. If I only knew...

I want so badly to just sit down with her and a bottle of vodka and talk all night and pour over the old photo albums while we gossip and drink. I want to wake up hungover and do it all again, after fortifying ourselevs with grease and coffee. I miss her friendship and don't know if we'll ever see each other again.

To quote someone we both know, I came for you, but you did not need my urgency.
Miz Shoes

Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue

Somewhere or another I read that the human body completely replaces itself on a cellular level every seven years. That means that today I am a completely different person than I was the day my father died, which was seven years ago this morning.

I suppose that’s true in a metaphysical way as well. I know that for the longest time I felt diminished, as though I was no longer the person I was when Daddy was alive. Getting my bookkeeping in order and my weight down were two steps towards getting back to who I was BMD (before Max died). Still, I’m not the same. I’m more melancholy (hard to believe, I know, especially considering I espouse putting Prozac in the city’s drinking water to improve the community at large).

I miss talking football with him. I miss talking baseball and basketball with him. I miss telling him stories about my dogs. I miss him every Sunday when he doesn’t call. I miss him sending me marshmallow Peeps at Easter time, and a weekly envelope full of newspaper clippings.

I miss his acerbic take on politics, and know that the Tea Party would have caused him to burst a blood vessel in his head. I find myself less tolerant of stupidity than ever, and remember the old man’s favorite saying: “I don’t mind ignorance, but I can’t stand stupidity.”

Not a day goes by that I don’t think “What Would Max Do?” and the answer guides my actions. And saying that, what Max would do about this sorrow and emptiness would be to suck it up and do the things that still need to get done. There is no going back, so there is no use in dwelling in the sorrow. Pick yourself up and live in the now, he would tell me, although not in those words.

Nope, Max would say this: you do the things that need to be done first, and then there will always be time to do what you want to do. So I’ll put one foot in front of the other, and wait until tonight, when I can light a candle for my father.

Yesterday was the old man’s birthday. He would have been 93. In May, it will have been seven years since he died. It doesn’t get easier, it just gets farther away. I miss him every day. I hear his voice in my head every day. I hear his advice. I heed his advice. The nurse practitioner for my mother called me yesterday, just to tell me what I already know: that Mummy is on the downside of the bell curve and declining. She’s been switched to soft foods. She’s losing weight. She’s not in pain, nor is she of this world, really. I am so glad that Daddy never saw her like this: it would have killed him.

My SisterGirlCousin went to see Daddy yesterday and lay a stone on his grave. She says that she let him know she was standing in for me. I’m sure he understood.

Miz Shoes

Miz Shoes Regrets

Miz Shoes regrets she will be unable to recap today. She and The Renowned Local Artist had to take the Noble Dog Nails (aka Lt. Commander Nails, Retired, Sah!) across the Rainbow Bridge. He was a good and loyal companion for fourteen years and will be forever in our hearts.

The Noble Dog Nails was a Jack Russell Terrier. When his vet first saw him, he warned us that JRTs tend to die early, because they are suicidal: jumping out of moving cars to chase a dog spotted in another car, running into traffic, running away, going down a hole only to never be seen again… Nails did many of those things. It took longer to train the RLA that a Jack can NEVER be off-leash anywhere without a good fence and adult supervision than it did to train Nails to sit.

Nails graduated at the top of his puppy training class, accepting his biscuit and carrying it back to his spot before he ate it. We were also thrown out of agility classes after a couple of sessions because the trainer felt that Nails “didn’t want it enough”. Which was probably a fair assessment of the situation. Nails fought an Akita and later a Golden Retriever, and came out ahead with the Akita and slightly the worse for wear with the Golden (known forever after around these parts as Cujo). He field stripped a banana tree, leaf by leaf until we had no banana tree. He caught birds, possums and bufo toads, and was smart enough to find the RLA after the first two bufos caused him to end up at the vet’s office for anti-toxin. Toad. RLA. Mouth wash. No vet. Smart dog. Nails was not afraid of thunder, nor was he afraid of fireworks, as our friends who were with us the July 4th when he seized a lit firework and tried to kill it can attest to. We got it out of his mouth before it went off.

When my father passed away, Nails jumped up on the bed, sniffed Daddy from one end to the other and then stood guard over his body, like a little terrier version of Anubis, escorting the Egyptian dead to the other side. I’m sure that my old man was waiting on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge for Nails, greeting him with a gruff “Hey, Dog.”

Nails was able to destroy indestructible dog toys. He could, and did, climb trees. He was a fearless and grouchy companion, who swam in our pool every day. He would sit like a little old Jewish man on South Beach back in the day, on the top step of the pool, with the water coming up to his chest. Then he would launch himself off the step and swim in doggie laps, a circle about 4 ft. in diameter, before going back for another sit on the step. He hated pool noodles. Whenever they were in the pool, they were the enemy and had to die. He would dive in the pool, and grab the noodle in his teeth and wrestle it out of the pool, where it was rendered harmless and could be ignored.

Our very favorite game that we played together was “Hunting Lubbers Out in India”, where Miz Shoes would wander about the back yard, a long stick in one hand and a martini in the other, Nails close behind. Once a giant yellow lubber was spotted decimating the foliage, Miz Shoes would beat the leaves with her stick, and when the lubber leaped for safety, Nails would pounce upon it, and with a quick shake of his head, kill the lubber. Miz Shoes would sing the great Bonzo Dog Doodah Band classic “Hunting Tigers Out in India” as we hunted. It was cracking good sport, and Nails was in full Lt. Commander Nails, Retired, Sah! mode, all empire and duty.

Good dog, Nails. Smart dog, Nails. Brave and loyal and fierce and handsome Nails. Sail on, little old man.

Miz Shoes

Where Does the Time Go?

So much for photodocumenting my weekend output. So much for blogging regularly. I have to say that it is so much harder to blog when one’s actual job requires actual work. Not to say I miss the old pointy haired boss, because that would not be true. I just miss sitting around on the company dime, working on my personal blog. Which I am doing right now.

My little cat, Ming the Merciless, is terminal. We are doing hospice. By we, of course, I mean the RLA and myself. We let him eat what ever he wants. We carry him around outside for fresh air. I’ve been giving him sub-Q fluids twice a day to keep him hydrated. I take him in the shower room and run the water as hot as it gets, with Kiss Your Face cold and flu soap on a sponge until the room fills with steam, and Ming and I sit there and have a vaporizer session. He’s allowed to sleep with me under the covers.

He’s just a little guy, and every day with us is a good day. I’m in no hurry to send him off to the other side of the rainbow bridge. When the time comes, we’ll all know.

Of course, there is some trepidation over this in my own superstitious heart. My old cat developed leukemia at the same time as my father, and I had to put him down (the cat) a month before my dad passed away. Now Ming has a neurological problem and has gone blind in one eye and is living day to day. My mother is blind in one eye and living day by day with end-stage Alzheimer’s. You see where I’m going with this, I’m sure.

Anyway, the boss has entered the building. Time to work for the man. Photos later, I promise.

Miz Shoes

My Heart is Heavy & Pressed to the Bond

I went to my childhood home on Thanksgiving day, for the annual feast, now held at the Girl Cousin’s home. For twenty years or more, it was my mother’s feast, and the family, and the widows and the orphans all piled in. It went from a sit-down dinner with the good china to a wild and wooly buffet off paper plates. Along with Passover, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Food and family and both in wretched excess.

This year was subdued, as the Girl Cousin’s mom was in the hospital with pneumonia. We took her a plate of all the home-made goodies and she sat up in a chair and teased me and ate everything. Then the sun set, literally, and the dementia came back and the anxiety and anger and the family decided to get her out of hospital and into the local hospice house, until she could be stabilized and sent home.

Only the first part happened. My Auntie Em went to the hospice house and 48 hours later, she was gone. She left this world surrounded by her family, which is exactly how she lived her life. The RLA and I drove home to Miami, switched out the clothes in our suitcase and drove back north for her funeral. There was more to it than that, of course: I had been called for jury duty, we had doctors’ appointments and the stupid cat had to go back to the vet with his chronic weepy ear.*

Back north, funeral, back south, back to work. And now my mother has “issues”. I have a new pack of cigarettes and a full bottle of scotch. More later, I promise. It’s just that I am finding it hard to be amusing these days.

* The vet says that this is medically known as “squishy ear syndrome”. He also says that Ming has a “chronic, pernicious exudate”. I say that needs to be the name of my next imaginary punk band…at least Pernicious Exudate.

Miz Shoes

Brothers Under the Bridge

I have a friend, a long-time friend, and I talk about her here now and then. She’s The Coolest Person In The World TM. We were neighbors in New York City a million years ago, and while we haven’t stayed in touch in anything resembling a regular way, we are still friends.

In June, I bought an i-phone, and my Twitter habit began shortly after that. I started following famous people (Lauren Bacall, Brent Spiner & Kevin Smith). I started following other bloggers (SinPantalones, Quisp & RJFlamingo). And I started following The Coolest Person In The World’s daughter, who is, like her mother, very cool and very funny.

Once in a while I would reply to her tweets. I loved reading about her life in New York City and about her mother: what she was cooking, where they were going, the weather out in the Hamptons. It made me feel closer to my friend than I had in years. It also, quite honestly, made me feel a little bit creepy and voyeuristic, but what the hell, you know? I mean, I’ve know her since she was a twinkle in her papa’s eye, it’s not like I was some Aqualung-type pedophile stalker. And anyway, she’s in college and aspiring to be a stand up comedian, so having strangers read her Twitter feed is something that she should expect.

Several weeks ago, the daughter blocked me from her Twitter feed. It was a surprise and made me feel a lot creepier. I am not exactly hurt or anything, but I miss reading about her mother. It was like being neighbors again, not friends separated by miles and years.

Miz Shoes

Boots of Spanish Leather

Somewhere in my negative files, there is a photo of a pair of well-worn boots. I shot them because, even empty, they stood like the man who wore them: one foot out, slightly cocked to one side. He was my last college boyfriend, and he was a junkie. Oh, he was clean, more or less, the time we were together, but he taught me that once a junkie, always a junkie. You might be clean and sober, but you are still a junkie. It was he who took me to that first Springsteen show at the Miami Jai Alai fronton. Somewhere I still have the photo he gave me from that night: Bruce from the back, a heart-shaped sweat stain on the ass of his jeans, blurry with the motion of Bruce whipping his knit hat from his head as he danced.

Why the melancholy reminiscence, you may ask? Because his death notice was in the alumni newsletter this week. It took all of my google-fu to find his obituary, and discover that he’d died in October of last year. I wrote our mutual friend: Why didn’t you tell me? Because he didn’t know, either. None of us knew. And that makes me sad, and a little angry. His on-line guest book is full of love and thanks from his patients and friends, because when he finally did get clean, he became an addiction therapist. Teach what you know, I guess. And he had a gift, apparently.

Reading the guest book made me sad for the man I didn’t know: the one who was generous and kind, something that we only saw glimpses of in school. He was filthy rich, but never let anyone know. He was always bumming a buck for a beer, never had anything less than a fifty, and couldn’t break it. It was a shock to me when I finally found out about the family money. I went down from Boston to meet him in New York City, and he took me to meet his grandfather. There’s something you need to know before we get there, he said. I’m rich. No. Really rich. Granddad owns the building we’re going to on Central Park West. He moved to the penthouse after Grandmother died and he didn’t need twelve rooms anymore. Now he only has seven. In the penthouse. It was his grandfather who convinced me that I shouldn’t waste my time on Boston, but move to NYC. It’s all happening out there he said, with a sweeping gesture, out his window overlooking the park. And it was. And I did.

When we left, Eric shook a paper bag at me. It clanged. The rest of the set I was born with, he grinned, showing me a silver service for eight. He hocked it. He went back to shooting dope, and begged me to come back to Miami for him. He pleaded with me. He wanted to marry me. I had to come back from New York. So I did. And found him living in filth in the Grove, where he apologized for dragging me away from the city, because in the month it took me to get my affairs in order and leave, he had met an eighteen year old girl, fallen in love, bought her a five carat canary diamond, and was over me. I never spoke to him again, although I knew what went on through mutual friends.

He ran through his inheritance. He was disowned. He moved to Arizona. He got clean. He was welcomed back into his family. He had families of his own. He became respected, loved and the man whose potential we had only seen in passing. And now he has passed. I’m sad that those of us who knew him when and loved him anyway weren’t told. But I don’t know. Had he disowned his past? I’ll never know. But I will find that photo of the boots.

Miz Shoes

Misty Watercolor Mem’ries

I came home from work today to find the lawn crew hard at work. The recent month-long deluge has taken my parched and patchy lawn and turned it into a lush sprawl of green, and when I went out to fill the feeders this morning, there were purple wild flowers in the back yard that reached to my knees. They’d just finished mowing, and the scent of fresh-cut grass was heavy in the moist air. I flashed back to a Sunday afternoon when I was six or seven. I was in the back yard, on the swing my father had built for me. My brother was mowing the lawn and my father was tending a grill he’d made out of an old oil barrel, cut in half. I remember being aware at that moment, that life was full, and good. Perfect. I recognized that it was a memory I’d have forever.

Well, it’s fifty years later, and all it took was one whiff to send me back in time.

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